Storybird- a change of mindset

I recently was preparing a workshop for teachers around Universal Design for Learning and student engagement and was doing some research. An article on TKI mentioned Storybird as a vehicle to engage reluctant learners in writing.

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I never like to recommend something without giving it a trial for myself. Fortunately I teach at a local school as well as being a LwDT Facilitator so had some willing learners to help me trial the tool.

I registered myself with a Storybird account and to keep things simple I manually entered the students names into Storybird and then set about changing the passwords that Storybird had assigned students and aligned them with the students’ Google Accounts.

This took a bit of time but paid off with fewer students having to be reminded of what their passwords were.

All of the writing activities we try need to be accessible on a variety of devices as I have Chromebooks, Mac Books and iPads to use and not enough of each to be exclusive. Storybird works well on all of these devices. To access the Storybird website on the iPad I made it into a shortcut on the home screen and on the laptops it was linked from our Moturoa blog.

Once all that was set up I made a practice picture book myself so that I would be one step ahead when we used it in class. In introducing the concept to my boys we said we will trial it for a few weeks and they can give their verdict on it.

We cracked into it. On first reflection I was underwhelmed. The idea is that you get a selection of images to use, select one and then use the images produced by that particular artist. You can search for images from a topic to get you started but my boys wanted to write of motorbikes and rugby and there were no images related to those sorts of topics to choose from. You cannot pick and mix the artist. Once you select one artist you can only use other images that that person has created.

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We pushed on as it was a trial. Although the illustrations were stunning some of the boys were reluctant to pick anything as none appealed. In the end they picked something and used that although it wasn’t a choice that initially engaged them. Few of the images lent themselves easily to building a narrative sequence so some of the boys just wrote  captions for the random images that engaged them.

Some however really engaged with the Storybird concept and managed to relate the images together to do quite a good semblance of a narrative.

After the writing and editing was done the boys pushed SAVE and PUBLISH and I was able to easily publish it with the provided embed code.

 

To spice things up a bit we also had a competition with voting via the blog to decide which stories we like best.

Please add your vote to the blog side bar to encourage the boys in their writing.

Our verdict

  • Stunning illustrations
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to embed
  • Intuitive interface
  • Works well across all devices
  • Limited mix of images- you have to use one artists’ images and cannot pick and mix
  • Limited range of images related to some of the things the boys wanted to write about
  • Once engaged some boys really involved with the process and showed an interest in working on it at home.
  • You can invite others to work on the stories collaboratively but we never really went down that track.
  • The teacher can leave notes on children’s writing as feedback on the process
  • You can read and reflect on other people’s writing by leaving comments which can be moderated.

As a final reflection I was thrilled when a parent joined in and made another book at home with her child and invited me to collaborate on it with her and she left a comment on the blog post.

 

Wonderful work and writing. This has opened up a whole new world of e-learning to me and I’m loving it I’ll be back for more!

 

Easy Accents – Macrons- Google Doc Add On

A couple of days ago Chris Harte, who was in my group at the Google Academy last year, posted on Google Plus about an Add On to Google Docs ‘Easy Accents‘ that allowed writers to easily use accents when writing.

As I often do I emailed myself the link so I could look at it more when I had a moment.

This afternoon I had a moment.

Dan Baker had originally posted that he had updated the app but sadly the accents didn’t include Māori macrons, only French, German and Spanish. I took it upon myself to ask Daniel if there was a possibility of adding Māori. Dan lives in Missouri and the time zones must be compatible with a Sunday afternoon in New Zealand so there followed a quick flurry of emails and a shared Google doc and within the hour the job was done and being pushed out to Google servers globally.

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So now go to a Google Doc- ADD ONS- get add ons and look for ‘Easy Accents’ or click here directly to add it to Chrome.

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I have not been able to contribute much to Connected Educator Month because of other work commitments but I think that this is what being connected is all about.

I am so impressed with Daniel’s responsiveness I donated to help him along and encourage young developers like him.

Let’s Write About This

I can’t recall how I first came across the Write About This app but liked it immensely from the very start. The concepts behind this app grabbed me straight away and I could see the potential. How it works is this…

Children select a photo prompt that engages them from a good selection of categories or they could potentially take their own photo.

They are then prompted with a choice of three levels of questions of increasing complexity with an audio overlay in case reading independently is an issue.

They then write their stories and if they want to they can then read their stories aloud and export them as movies for publishing on the web. How motivating for learners!

The only problem with the app as it was when I first saw it was that many of the images were distinctly American- aircraft carriers, men in uniform, yellow school buses, grid iron football- and the voice over was in an American accent. And the spelling- all those favorites and colors!

I got in touch with Brad Wilson, the app developer, and asked about the possibility of making a kiwi version. He was keen so I enlisted the assistance of the Learning with Digital Technologies team for support. Monika Kern took me up on the offer and together we worked on identifying images that we needed to change and sourcing new ones with a distinctive kiwi flavour.

We did try to record the audio prompts ourselves but it was taking too long and we were unsure of the consistency so Brad organised a Kiwi voice over artist. And here we are now with the app being launched in the iTunes store. How awesome is that.

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I am chuffed that they used a photo I took on the way home from working in Blenheim earlier this year as a cover photo. The youngest member of the fire brigade team proudly stood by the truck to have his photo taken while the rest of the team were giving him cheek.

Here is a quick recording I made to show you a finished story. I would love to see what you and your students come up with.

You can also purchase Tell About This from the same team which focusses more on oral retelling.

Here is one we made with the Kiwi version of the app…..

Spell Write

I was visiting a school recently and as I was leaving I spoke with the office manager/teacher aide who was individually testing a child on his Spell Write spelling list.

She would say the word, say it again in context and say the word again

This was great as it showed me that the teacher was trying to differentiate the learning for individual students to find out what they knew individually rather than testing groups of learners when many of them were maybe not ready for it or had already moved on.

What has always concerned me though was the time it takes to individually test children in this sort of way.

When teaching, to overcome this issue I made a recordings of myself administering the test using Garageband or Audacity on a PC. I then put those tracks into an iTunes playlist and put it on my iPod Nano or iPad.

I also made a template like this for children to record their words so they would know where they were up to.

This worked really well as the children could play the track at a pace that suited them and rewind words if they wanted to for clarification or if I was going too fast.

With permission from NZCER, the publishers of Spell Write, I share with you the audio of me reading Essential List One to give you the idea. It would take no more time for you to record yourself doing  this once for your whole class as it would to do it once for one child. And then you never have to do it again. I have the other audio tracks and list templates I am happy to share with you if you let me know.

I also linked to Spelling City website or iPad app on my the sidebar of our class blog so children could play games and test themselves on lists based on the Spell Write lists.

Here is the Spell Write List One words but I link to the rest as well so all children have access. You are welcome and encouraged to link to my other lists as well if you wish.

http://www.spellingcity.com/view-spelling-list.html?listId=1914661

I found that doing these things meant that children could move at a pace and level that suited them- with some children making much accelerated progress.

Here are the links to the individual lists in Spelling City…

What do you do to differentiate the learning of the essential spelling words?

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Almost as Good As Being There

Today I had the pleasure of reading to the children of Tua Marina School as part of their fabulous book week. Barbara Keane had organised guest readers to come in each day at 10:30 to read to the children.

Today was their wonderful dress up as a book character day and I got to read the first chapter of one of one of my favourites classics….. The Iron Man.

I had managed to source an on line version of the Iron Man as well so senior children could continue reading and finish off the story if they were inspired to do so.

I used Call Recorder on my MacBook to record the reading, edited the length a bit with Quicktime and uploaded it to Vimeo for your viewing pleasure!!

We talk about working blended and flipping the classroom- well here is one way how that might happen. It certainly saves on travel and time. And I love reading to kids and seeing the light in their eyes.

And at the end I got thanked by a real princess Cinderella!!!

Iron Man from Allanah King on Vimeo.

One avid reader of this blog read the story to his children who set about on a wet Saturday to do a little creating. Very cool response to reading!!!!

 

Tour of Wellington Innovative Libraries

This week I had the privilege of being able tour three Wellington School libraries and challenge some of my thinking around how future focussed libraries might be.

We started the tour with the new Amesbury School– so new that Google Maps didn’t pick it up. Amesbury and it’s principal, Lesley Murrihy, impressed me with their openess and high trust model. Lesley had been in my ULearn pre-conference workshops last year and it was great to see the school’s QR codes in action.

Take a moment to view the photos I took on tour- made with Haiku Deck, a free, elegantly simple slideshow iPad app that emails you a Powerpoint of your slideshow should you wish!

 

Lesley explained that the library is like the living room of the school. I like that analogy. It’s where people come and talk, work, meet, share- it’s at the central core of the school. Amesbury  has a participatory model where the community – whanau, children, teachers- have a feeling of ownership.

As you step into the school you have to pretty much walk through the library. They don’t have specific times where children come and exchange their books, they’re not hung up on due dates to return books, eReaders are taken home with the books already downloaded. Children come to the library as they wish but with a timer as a necklace so that they don’t settle down on a comfy bean bag in the sun for too long and forget to return to the learning hub. High trust but with accountability.

Another idea I really liked was their development of 2 minute snippets of learning videos. As a new concept was learned short videos, made my children, were being developed and shared. Over time this will develop in to a rich record of learning and a resource for children to be able to revise and learn. The learning is becoming rewindable. Hat tip to Kevin Honeycutt for planting that idea in my head.

Amesbury had such a lovely feel to it. A great way to kick off our day. Thanks team.

 

TED-Ed

You have probably all watch a TED video or two over the years and they make excellent watching. TED have recently add TED-Ed to their arsenal. The idea is that you can any use TED or YouTube video via a hyperlink and add some questions around it, link some further readings or resources and add a big question to construct a personalised lesson.

I thought I would give it a whirl to see if it was easy enough and worth recommending. I decided to use a video I had made in 2006 outlining how my class operated at that time. The video had been on Teacher Tube and has had over 70 downloads so some people obviously liked it but no one seems to use Teacher Tube any more.

Here is my first quick TED-Ed lesson.

TED-Ed is in beta but still worth a look. You can either look at the TED-ED lessons that others have made or, better still, make your own lessons and link them to your learning space.

Photo Competition Plagiarism

SunsetThe cluster is sponsoring a photo competition. It is all very exciting and we have had a two well attended after school resource sharing workshops on photography, time given to it at the Lead Teacher Day and Principals’ Morning so we are all set to go.

So we are starting to get a few entries. Last week I got emailed a stunning photo from one of my Year Four girls so she could enter the competition. I was suspicious that she hadn’t actually taken the photo because I didn’t recognise the skyline as being local.  Firstly I asked her where she took the photo and didn’t get a reply. I was even more suspicious.Screen shot 2011-03-27 at 11.57.06 AM

Fortunately Warren and Charles were about with a little advice on where to go to check out whether a photo has been used elsewhere on the net.

http://www.tineye.com/ was the site that was recommended. I uploaded the photo and was pleased (dismayed) to find that the photo was indeed borrowed.

I’m OK with children enhancing their photos with any tools they have on hand- iPhoto, Photoshop etc but just want the taking and enhancing be done by the child. In fact enhancing photos to improve them is to be encouraged.

Using the Tineye site won’t help with children entering photos taken by others in the family but will definitely help with photos taken from the internet.

This will be the basis of an interesting discussion in class on my next teaching day.

National Standards Review

This morning I attended a talk by Lester Flockton at which we got to hear his take on how he sees National Standards in New Zealand. My view of them is filtered through doom tinted glasses so anything I might add can be taken from that point of view. These are my views and are to be taken in no way as a reflection on the views of staff or BoT at my school. My reflections are in italics. This is what I took from Lester’s talk. I don’t usually blog about contentious issues but I wanted to share what I heard from someone who knows more about it than most. Here is what I heard…

National Standards have their foundations in politics not education so how can you discuss them with reason or logic. It was a political decision to start the National Standards process.

We need to be strong to say what we think– will I actually post my notes as a blog post but people already know via Twitter what I think. Press had been asked to leave before the Principal’s meeting started so how different is my blog post from a post in a newspaper, apart from lack of readership of this blog. We have a culture of compliance in NZ- we need to THINK of implications for National Standards- its possible/probable impact on teaching and learning.

Here are some of the slides that Lester used in his presentation. To see them in a decent size hover over them and click fullscreen.

Pamphlets about National Standards were posted out to parents before Christmas. Interestingly no one in the room had received a pamphlet in the mail – they were posted and not given to teachers to hand out- no wonder! The pamphlets were filled with political rhetoric in talk back radio language like

  • 20% of students are failing (Lester says 10-15% of children are struggling for a variety of reasons). Every country has a large tail- to make a difference to those struggling kids there are needs to be a whole package of assistance that they need to become successful- a test without real resources to support the family/whanau is unlikely to be successful.
  • Identify struggling children early- like we don’t know already which children are struggling.
  • We need one national test to rule them all- thankfully but also fatefully National Standards don’t deliver one test to rule them all- each school/teacher puts their own slant on the standard.
  • National Standards are needed so children can be compared one school against another. Lester says that the Standards are already impacting with schools advertising for staff to raise standards. Schools should be collaborative not competitive.
  • Parents are tired of politically correct sugar coated reports. Plain language reporting- it was changed from plain English as by saying English it was not politically correct! LOL)

League tables- inevitable in the long run- John Hattie is going to be in working party to develop them. He says he wants to make them safe- only comparing like decile schools. Lester says NEMP data is much more dependable and reliable. Schools will be pitched against schools! Common data sources- you won’t find them with National Standards there really isn’t moderation between schools- league tables based on surface features- because they more easily measured. It will breed a whole new batch of data driven tests.

Revision of NAGs in November 2009- blue sheet. Lester handed out NAG revision handout. Now no need to assess AOs. Schools asked to report to MoE on demographic analysis and trends, weakness, and what they are intending to do about it.

If you have a good reporting process keep it but add on as an appendage to your normal reporting schedule in term one and term four. Bring data on from the end of the previous year- beware of children’s fading over the school holidays. Beware of last year’s teachers who are soft or too hard so you appear over hard with kids moving between average or below for example- if a child was assessed as average last year and you put them at below beware of the parental wrath– Beware teacher workload.

MoE timeline- BoTs report on trends and what schols intend to do to achieve those targets. There will be enormous variance across teachers and schools as on what is above/below standard. There needs to be ongoing moderation between teachers and across schools.

Looking carefully at the characteristics of the reading and writing standards- same word games as the Achievement Objectives- the characteristics of year five and six are the same- it will be up to teachers to make those judgments and actually put it in plain language.

The people who put the standards together weren’t teachers and were done behind closed doors without teacher practitioners being involved. Why trial something that is rubbish anyway? Overseas any improvement has come at the expense  of a balanced, broad curriculum. Is this what we want- to follow failed overseas systems?

Trending to a data driven system. Children are not data.

Learning is messy.

So there you go! What do you think. What have you got to add?

Publish your own book on your blog.

This last week I have been thinking more and more about going back to school and the things we might learn to do and projects to undertake. I have found a couple of cool tools over the holidays that are well worth sharing.

Here is the first…

http://www.youblisher.com/

With this little tool you quickly upload a pdf and voila- you have an embeddable book for your blog.

(If you’re on an Apple and you want to make a pdf go FILE – PRINT – Then look in the bottom left of the box you see and it will say PDF, click and go SAVE AS PDF. If you’re on a PC look in my Delicious for a downloadable pdf converter that suits you.)

Using it on my class blog for our first newsletter I made my font size very big so you wouldn’t have to zoom in to read the text. You can flip and turn the pages, download and print it off. Here is an instructional pdf I have been revisiting getting ready for a foray to visit @inneskennard country in March.

How to make a Blogger blog

Click on the graphic to see it in action- page turn icons are down the bottom right hand corner!

Collaborative Google Wave Story

Christmas has been had and I haven’t quite caught up with my need for an afternoon nap yet. It is nice to be able to check in with my Twitter mates at times of the day when I am usually at work. American & UK snow storms, tweets about food and down-under sunshine seem to prevail. My RSS reader is empty and I am feeling the need to do a little collaborative something.

Allanah - Google Wave
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Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) suggested that we add to a collaborative Google wave story. I was a bit shy at first to add a few lines but what the hell. It is fun to leap in and have a go. The wave is open to all and Kevin has invites if you would like one. Give it a go and let your creative juices flow.

I still find it fascinating to watch other people edit collaborative projects like this in real time. Etherpad in its original form has been gobbled up by Google but as they have allowed the source code to be used by other people things like Pirate Pad could well fill the void.

The problem I see with using Google Wave in a classroom setting is the individual invites and log ins you would need. The joy of using Etherpad was anyone could just join in.

Also on the clever, creativity front here’s a little YouTube video rendition of the Halleluia Chorus performed by silent monks.

Phone a Friend

My mate Brian Cosby from Nevada recently posted about a very cool gadget for helping children with proof reading and reading aloud with fluency. With 32 lively children in my class the noise level often rises beyond acceptable levels and children need to be reminded to quieten down- especially as our new classroom is attached to the school reception area and everyone and their dog can hear us.Image

After reading Brian’s post I whipped out to the local hardware store clutching a photo of the laundry extensions from Brian’s blog. The chap at the hardware store was impressed with the weird things that teachers sometimes ask for.

The next day I gave the new ‘phones’ a try out in class. They were an instant hit- not only for their novelty value but how they helped children to hear what they had written as they read aloud. Using the ‘phone’ children were able to pick up mistakes they might have missed when proof reading on their own. Their voices dropped to an almost whisper as anything louder would shatter your eardrum.

I am giving it to readers as well as they re-read texts from guided reading lessons.

I now need to source a few more so that more children can use the technology.

Teaching Reading Comprehension with Dr Alison Davis

Teaching Reading Comprehension - Product Details @ Learning Network NZ
Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend the day with Dr Alison Davis who wrote ‘Teaching Reading Comprehension‘. This was the first non online or in-house PD I have attended this year and it was an excellent day with lots of new ideas about the deeper features of teaching reading comprehension and I wanted to share my take on it to further cement the ideas in my own head before implementing them in my classroom. Along with the theoretical there were lots of practical ideas as well. Alison knows her stuff and it is always good to talk with the people who really know what they are talking about rather than hear the message filtered through someone else’s eyes as you are doing here!

The focus of the day was on practical metacognition, looking at the pieces of the jigsaw that it means to be a fluent and accurate reader.

We, as teachers,  can make a difference- we can help children make accelerated progress to improve reading fluency beyond  what a child will do by maturation. There is a need for explicit teaching. Alison started by posing the question, ‘How much focussed reading time do we spend in deep reading instruction- how many minutes a week would it add up to. I have five instructional reading groups in my class and they get 20 or so minutes with me twice a week. Times that by 40 weeks. I had to do the sums a couple of times- I thought I had made a mistake. Allowing for other events that get in the way of instruction Alison has figured that children get a frankly rather pathetic- 12-18 hours of focussed reading instruction a YEAR!!! So how can we made that eighteen hours the most effective as it can be. We need to make the learning time BEFORE and AFTER the focussed reading instruction as good as it can possibly be looking carefully at what the kids are doing when they are not involved in the direct explicit instruction. The Reciprocal Reading approach came from the metacognition theorists- it hooks into what good readers do automatically and explicitly teaches it.

Knowing when you are learning, knowing when you’re not learning, what to do about it, knowing why you are learning and doing the learning. What strategies (tools) might you use when you are reading?? Like gardening- you have to know there are tools that you could use and then use them- the right tool for the task. Researcher  Michael Pressley found  that there are 40 odd strategies that good readers do to read fluently. Reading is an active activity- not a passive one.

Before the instruction it is crucial to activate Prior Knowledge.

Formative assessment WALTs…  We know we have achieved this when… Because… Success criteria- show me… Self and peer assessment as long as there is criteria to assess that your assessing peer can SEE.
Eg We are learning to visualise what we read because good readers see images as they read. We know we are successful when we tell our buddy what we ‘see’ when we are reading and give a word from the story that gives you a clue to the image that the text invokes.

Eg Leading to what did you hear when you were reading– what do you hear when the text says ‘said’? How much that word ‘said’ changes the tone of what is happening in the story? Exchange that word ‘said’ with whispered, stated, offered, replied, and the rest.

Importance of prior knowledge– how important that is- give it more of a place in the reading process- before the lesson with the teacher- giving children an activity the activates prior knowledge. When we talk about prior knowledge of

  • content- do they know about what is happening in the story
  • text selection – eg electricity first lesson might totally on the vocabulary children need to know to access the text
  • structure- main characters, characters, setting plot are things that happen in fiction but it won’t be there if you are going to read a non-fiction text. How an explanation differs from a narrative as a genre.
  • personal knowledge- the personal and cultural prior knowledge that children bring to the text

Construct generic graphic organisers to give some structure to this. Here comes the plug- buy the ebooks based on our NZ School Journals by yours truly here!

Example One- before reading a book about fishing have children complete the graphic organiser below to activate prior learning about fishing.

Allison Davis
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Example Two- This graphic was from a story one of my reading groups had used earlier this week- I had already made this one. I must be doing something right!

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Example Three- Children record the vocabulary they think they are likely to meet in the story and tick them off as they do meet them AND they can also tick off synonyms for those words.

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Example Four- Give each child a different picture/vocab from the book and get kids think about what they are going to meet in the story- thinking critically about what they are going to read.

Anything that brings kids to stickability so that it becomes automaticity.

Struggling readers use all the cognitive capacity into decoding so that less brain power is available to thinking about what they are reading. They reach a cognitive overload- there is just so much new stuff going on that child reaches overload.

For things to stick it has give kids something to hook their new learning into and it gives you some information on what holes and gaps that they bring to prior learning. I liken this a bit to putting the full stops in when writing. It has to be so STUCK that you don’t even really need to think about it- you just do it.

The Thinking Aloud Strategy- making the strategies accessible to others by verbalising, telling others the processes, thoughts and ideas that you used to make meaning from texts. Describe what you did with your prior learning, make learning process visible to yourself and others- like we do in maths.

Knowing what ‘good’ comprehenders do-

  • The ability to decode- phonemic awareness and knowledge, phonics and word attack skills
  • Basic sight words- and strategies to work these out- read and SPELL in isolation and in context to automaticity- overtly taught- really high priority- a lot of them are not phonemic- so you have to get them BY SIGHT- they are high frequency in their own right but also because they are inside other words as well.
  • Wide vocabulary- oral as well. The words need to be in there to start with!
  • Fluency and strategies to be fluent- out loud, absolute need for prior knowledge- REPEATED READING. Kids need this so less of their brain is taken up with the decoding/struggling and more can be left over for comprehending.
  • Accuracy and strategies for accuracy
  • Comprehension and strategies for comprehension- main idea, summarising…

But each of these bullet points is itself huge.

So when the kids are not with you kids should be…..

Repeatedly reading
Word recognition- what to do when I come I don’t know
Basic sight words
Developing vocabulary
Focussing on accuracy
Maintenance of past taught- like visualisation

WORD RECOGNITION– Pg43 targeted observation of what to do when you don’t know- word strategies- making connections with spelling learning. A note here- I have always been a big fan of whole language learning and this focus on phonemes and the like has me close to the edge of my cognitive overload! I remember when my teachers tried to teach me long and short vowels I just could not hear the difference even though I was OK reader. It wasn’t until I tried to teach it that it sort of started to make sense to me.

Phonemic Awareness  a phoneme is the smallest sound you can hear in a word- eg d, dad, d-a-d. Whereas phonemic awareness is phonics when you see them written down. The 26 letters of the alphabet produce 43-46 sounds- long and short vowels are actually important eg cut/cute AND when you add a suffix that starts with i you loose the e- that sort of thing.

  • Teach the most common rules- hard and soft sounds like hard c/ soft c. Understanding that there are exceptions but not that many with the more important ones.
  • Segmenting and blending d-o-g
  • Multi-syllabic words – list-en-ing
  • Morphological – the knowledge of the rules like compound words, suffixes, root words ( I say ‘base word’ cos my kids snigger when I say ‘root’.)
  • All of the ways that you can write that long ā sound- slay, straight, made, neighbor, prey, rein, rain, great,
  • Make word lists that involve seeing the pattern that the one sound can be represented in different ways, play games based around recognising the patterns.
  • Explicit teaching includes demonstration, explanation, information (what, why, when) scaffolded practice- guided to independent use, planned transfer access curricula, student demonstration, explanation and self reflection. Equipping kids with a range of tools they can use when they come to a word they don’t know.
  • Onset and rime– there is a list of the most common rimes- Ake, ain, ake, all, ane, an, ank, ap, ask, at, ate, aw, ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ide etc…. I thought Alison had spelt rhyme wrong at this point- just to show my ignorance!
  • Peeling away to shorter more understandable words eg un-surpris-ing-ly
  • How would you help a child decode ‘hospital’ page 47 or ‘benefit’; beneafit, benifit, beneyfit- are the spelling mistakes kids making phonetically acceptable. Spelling Under Scrutiny is something else I have been exploring this year also.

Things to do when you know that you don’t know a word

  • Sounding out
  • Vowel alert-
  • Tricky part alert
  • Rhyming
  • Peeling off the extras
  • Look for little words inside
  • Look for the syllables
  • Read on/ read through

A new section on TKI to help teachers with this learning… Click on the graphic to take you there…

Home - Sounds and Words
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Vocabulary Acquisition

Looking up in a dictionary won’t advance stickability. Many new words are learned indirectly. ALL kids need to be read to, older kids just as much as little kids. Ask a bookstore near you with staff who know kids books or the National Library.

Even ‘little words’ have big meanings. For example do a dictionary search for the little word ‘run’ use Dictionary on the Apple and http://dictionary.reference.com/ if you are on line. They give 179 meanings for run- run up, run down, run in, run out…….

Before reading- subject specific vocab- don’t be afraid to teach the vocabulary particularly if its subject specific. New vocab needs to be taught in context AND morphology in tandem to enhance vocabulary learning. Pg 106

  • SPOTLIGHTING- Teacher writes a list of the vocab that might be challenging. Spotlight the words- seek and destroy. If there are red words we need to teach the meaning and its root word.
  • RED if you have no idea- we need to learn these words
  • ORANGE I have a bit of an idea- talk about them
  • GREEN–  I am sure I know that word- look at the green words- is it a word with more that one meaning. What is the meaning of that word in this text.

Loosing me a bit here after lunch and being a Friday afternoon and all……. Just found a free wifi access, checking mail, why won’t Twitter allow me to post…. Drifting……. Drifting……. Re-focus……

  • FOCUS on the base word eg if you don’t know ‘sustainability’ but you do know sustain then you are much better placed to keep the meaning of what you are reading.
  • Tier Words- Tier One Words– most frequently used- sight vocabulary- the must haves. Tier Two Words– frequently used- what are the words that are most important for children to know about Tier Three– subject specific- not often occurring in instruction to learn on as ‘on need to know’ basis.

AFTER THE READING VOCABULARY LEARNING

Again some graphic organisers

Organiser One– synonym web- the word in the middle and synonyms spider out from it.

Organiser Two– The Cline- put the words into steps- rate the word on a scale-

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Organiser Three– Word Families- build the family eg happy, unhappy, happily, unhappily happiest, happiness, happier. Then talk about the  grammar of these words- which of these is a noun, adjective etc

Sketch the word. How would you sketch a word like sustainability but as you do you explain why you drew that, write your own definition, write the clues for it when used in a crossword puzzle, cloze procedure and the discussion that surrounds the marking of tense, syntactically or grammatically correct.

Focus on a word- in your teaching group…

  • Someone finds the base word
  • Someone finds a definition
  • Someone finds a synonym
  • Someone finds a example
  • Someone finds a antonym

Categorising Page 92 eg  focus on the word ‘irresistible’ find a place that is irresistible, a person who is irresistible, an event that is irresistible- cements the meaning of the word into your schema (things that you know)- stickability.

COMPREHENSION STRATEGIES page 127

Teaching Children to use these strategies for understanding reading, to learn a number of different strategies either intentionally or unintentionally, used before, during and after, direct and intentional teaching is effective in promoting reading comprehension.

  • Summarising
  • Construction of mental images, visualising
  • Question generation and question answering during reading
  • Activation of prior knowledge
  • Prediction of up coming content
  • Inference
  • Clarification
  • Analysis and synthesis
  • Evaluation
  • Self monitoring
  • Ability to correct faulty comprehension

And at that stage we finished up the day. I found the challenging and informative and could well have spent longer delving more deeply but it was time well spent with some easy to construct and useful ideas for taking back to my classroom and sharing with teachers. Thanks Alison

Putting this post together was a bit of a mission but blogging it helps me ‘stick’ the learning in my own head if nothing else.

Greg Carroll added a really useful link to his post on a similar theme that I post here in case you don’t have a mind to read the comments directly.

I Hear Your Concerns- Yeah Right!

Not sure where to start really as some good things may just yet come out of National Standards if the whole thing is not rushed through and thought is given to the long term consequences and ramifications of National Testing. Unfortunately attending the ‘consultation’ meeting yesterday left me with more questions than answers. I wanted to blog my thoughts right there and then but didn’t want to appear to be a nerdy swat. The atmosphere was warmer than the hall we were in- and that’s saying something. Good Lord- one of the coldest mornings we have had and we are all sat in a huge school hall with NO heating what so ever. By the end of the morning I had lost contact with my toes.

Below is my takeaway from the meeting. I probably got it wrong in places but it is not my job to be a reporter. One thing I do know that at least I will quote myself correctly when I publish- unlike this chappie from the Nelson Evening Mail– apart from getting my name wrong he got what I said wrong as well. My question was ( and I quote ‘cos I wrote it down before I asked it ) “If a child is identified to be at risk as a consequence of National Testing what will be done to support that child above what is already been done now”. That answer was that the Ministry has put aside $35m for National Testing. I replied that I didn’t think that would be enough. Don McClean asked more eloquently than me,

“If we measure a kid’s height it doesn’t make them taller, so how is measuring kids nationally going to make them achieve more?”

To write my thoughts I have added my questions/thoughts in CAPITAL LETTERS in a Wes Fryer sort of way in order to separate them from the messages I took from the presentation.

The learned people engaged in reading the Ministry spiel made sure that they stuck to the script so that everyone who came to the meetings throughout the country would hear the same message. Anne Tolley, our Minister of Education started off virtually with a video. In the video she said that formative assessment informs our teaching.

OH SO I GOT IT WRONG. NATIONAL TESTING IS INTENDED TO BE A FORM OF FORMATIVE TESTING!

HOW WILL NATIONAL TESTING RAISE ACHIEVEMENT?

The MOE people reitereated that National Testing is not about publishing league tables and it was all about noble ideals of developing partnerships between school/whanau/community. IT MAY NOT BE THE INTENTION BUT I FEAR THAT LEAGUE TABLES MAY WELL BE THE END RESULT.

The National Standards will connect with NZCEA Level Two and work backwards to what children will need to know in order to be successful participants in society. Benchmarks will be set at the end of each year level. Year 1, 2 and 3 will be reported at the end of a complete year at school and thereafter at the end of the school year.

IF NATIONAL TESTING AND PARENT REPORTING HAPPENS AT THE END OF THE YEAR HOW WILL NEXT STEPS OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT BE ACTIONABLE?

ESOL and Special Education children will be exempt from the testing regimin. WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO AREN”T SPECIAL NEEDS AS SUCH BUT ARE STILL WORKING AT LEVEL ONE OF THE CURRICULUM? WILL THEY BE EXEMPT? EVEN COMPLETING PAT TESTS IN YEAR FOUR IS A DODGY PROPOSITION?

If I got my listening right it is expected that 75% of Year Six children will achieve the standard and only 50-60% of Year 7/8. SO WHAT HAPPENS TO THE 25% OF CHILDREN WHO WERE SUCCESSFUL WHO NOW SUDDENLY AREN”T?

The mathematics part of the testing is not necessarily based on NUMPA learning but on the ‘big ideas’ in each learning area of maths. LOOKING AT THE ACTUAL TEST SAMPLE IT APPEARS THAT ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ARE HAND MARKED BY THE TEACHER AS ARE THE LITERACY SAMPLES. WORKLOAD?

I did like that the literacy samples be marked OBJ- On the teacher’s Balanced Judgement. GREAT BUT WHAT SORT OF MODERATION WILL BE IN PLACE TO ENSURE THAT DIFFERENT TEACHERS IN THE SAME SCHOOL AND ACROSS SCHOOLS WILL BE JUDGING AGAINST THE SAME MODERATED CRITERIA?

I did like the use of the term ‘readability level’ of text as opposed to a reading age. I have long held to the belief that it is readability that is more of use in grading a text than reading age that implies that having on its own a high reading age, is more important than a deeper understanding of the reading material in itself. THE LITERACY SECTION OF THE NATIONAL STANDARDS WAS ADDRESSED BY JILL FORGIE AND I THOUGHT SHE SPOKE SOME SENSE. I HOPE SHE IS BEING LISTENED TO.

ANOTHER COUPLE OF QUESTIONS CAME TO MY MIND AS WE WERE TALKING….

WHAT STEPS CAN BE TAKEN TO PROTECT INFORMATION FROM THE ZEALOUS PRESS IN PUTTING THEIR OWN SLANT ON RESULTS? The response to that one was that principal’s should draft their own press releases. MY RESPONSE TO THAT ONE IS TO LOOK AT THE WRITE UP IN TODAY”S PAPER– I WAS MIS-QUOTED AND DIDN”T EVEN REALISE THAT THE PRESS WAS REPORTING THE EVENT!

WHAT EVIDENCE BASE IS THERE TO SET THE STANDARDS AS THEY INTEND TO DO???

I HAVE A FEELING THAT THESE TARGETS ARE ASPIRATIONAL ONES WE WOULD LIKE TO ACHIEVE. THE MATHS STANDARDS WERE WRITTEN I THINK BY MATHEMATICIANS- A RARE BREED APART FROM ORDINARY FOLK. DO WE NEED TO BE MORE REALISTIC IF THE GOAL IS NOT TO PUNISH GOOD SCHOOLS BUT TO RAISE THE LONG TAIL OF UNDER-PERFORMING SCHOOLS? WE ARE ALL GOING TO BE LUMPED TOGETHER.

HOW DO WE REPORT TO CHILDREN THAT THEY ARE BELOW, BELOW, BELOW STANDARD. I AGREE WE HAVE TO HAVE HONEST REPORTING BUT FOR SOME KIDS THIS SORT OF REPORTING COULD BE CATASTROPHIC. I WAS TOLD AT SCHOOL THAT I WOULD NEVER PASS SCHOOL CERTIFICATE MATHS- SO WHAT WAS THE POINT OF TRYING? I AM STILL TRYING TO GET OVER IT!

WE WERE TOLD THAT OUR FEEDBACK WAS VALUED AND WANTED BUT FEEDBACK IS DUE ON JUNE 30th- NEXT TUESDAY- ONE WEEK IN WHICH TO SHARE THE LEARNING WITH OTHERS NOT ABLE TO ATTEND THE MEETING. NOT LONG TO GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK ON SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHANGE IN NEW ZEALAND’S EDUCATION GIVEN THE EFFORTS BEING MADE TO IMPLEMENT THE NEW CURRICULUM.

I MAY HAVE GOT THE WHOLE THING WRONG. PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WADE IN THE MURKY WATERS AND HELP CLARIFY MY THINKING ON THIS.

GIVE THE MINISTRY YOUR FEEDBACK BEFORE NEXT TUESDAY!!!!

Other articles you may like to read

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10576265

There’s even a National Standards Ning started by the NZEI http://www.nationalstandards.org.nz/

Greg Carroll has some views also that are worth reading here.

Don’t know who Subversive ICT blogger is but he/she makes some good points also.

“The point is that kids come in a variety of sizes and having a standard “height” for 6-year-olds is absurd. Someone will always come up short – not meet the standard. There will always be a distribution of height, weight – or achievement. Go find your Plunket book. If you set a standard “height”, all those short kids get hurt and resentful, and their parents fret, when it’s just normal for some people to be shorter (or just grow slower).”

Derek Wenmoth expresses himself on National Standards here.

Herald Newspaper Article written in March on Anne Tolley’s election promises.

Isaac Day‘s Reflection on National Standards.

MOE National Standards Forum Comments

I am adding more links here as I come across them.

If you know of any other places people can go to find out more then please add them in the comments and I will link from this main page.

Cheers

Encapsulated by Capzles

If you have good people in your network you learn good stuff. Last night I caught a tweet by Wes Fryer about a another great digital tool called Capzles. He was impressed and so am I as I quickly made a Capzle from a few photos and a class digital story movie. I added some feedback text and an audio mix of my commentary and some FreePlay music. The features of Capzles that I like are the intuitive interface, the quick ease of uploading content and the timeline effect. It harvests the data from your photos and knows when they were taken and puts them in a timeline. It has great quality in full screen mode as well.

It fits well inside Blogger. A bonus is that as it embeds you can chose to only have the audio play when you click on the little speaker icon. That’s great ‘cos I find it irritating to have audio play on a blog when it hasn’t been asked so the audio doesn’t come to you uninvited. The only downside I can see is that comments go live immediately. For school I would like to see some form of comment moderation or at least notification of new comments but I don’t think it would be a huge problem.

For next year I thought it would be fun to take a photo everyday- children could add a photo highlight a day and we could grow our portfolio over the year embedded in our blog.

Give it a whirl and create one of your own!

Timez Attack- a new way to learn your tables

Multiplication Tables - Flash Player Installation
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Here is another great find that came to me from my Twitter network- Timez Attack via Barbara Read, @Barbs1.

It is a downloadable game for PC or Mac. I downloaded the free base version. The full version has the same basic facts learning but without the extra levels of complexity. This maths game would really appeal to my gaming Year 4/5 boys. It is really built like the old game Wolfenstein 3D game without the killing. Every now and again you come across an ogre that you neutralise by knowing your tables. I was very impressed with the graphics and the attempts to build number knowledge as well as straight recall. Give it a go. I am sure you will be hooked. I would like to hear what the paid for version ($40US for home use) is like if you decide to buy it. Something for my next year’s class maybe.

E-Play with Buzzword and

Chris Betcher recently blogged about another new Adobe tool- Buzzword– an online word processor written in Flash. Very cool. The features that I particularly like are that you can upload a Word document and it looks just like it does in Word. You can create documents in Buzzword and export as a pdf or a Word document onto your desktop. Ideal for those without the $$$ to spend on Microsoft products. You can insert tables and graphics and do all the usuals that a normal person would want a desktop publisher to do.

Then you can share that document with others just as you might do in Google Docs. But here’s the really cool thing you can do as well. On the far right hand side of the screen you can see the icon- MEET. Thought I would give it a try and find out who I might meet.

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Turns out it takes you to Adobe ConnectNow- through which I can share my desktop with others. OK this looks fun but I need someone to share with. Enter Skype and Twitter. Raewyn from school was on Skype and I sent out a general Tweet asking if anyone wanted a little playtime! Colin Warren a educational tertiary level blogger from from Geelong, Australia, answered my call. Together we played and found out pretty much how to work the screen sharing application by talking about it with Skype and sharing the iSite video. The screen capture is of how it looked from my end as Colin opened up his desktop for us to look at. Through this medium we shared photos and movies directly from my desktop.

Preview
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I liked the interface and it all worked smoothly after we had played about for a bit trying to get the sound working. We nearly had to resort to using the HELP tab but resisted the temptation.

It is great to have a PLN that is so wiling to try new things and learn with each other across the globe.

Preview
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Here is how the screen looked in a screen grab from Raewyn’s computer. It shows her desktop visibe with my laptop screen viewable at the same time. It looks complicated but it really wasn’t.
I was struck by how relatively simple Adobe’s ConnectNow was and how useful it might be for teachers who are in need of a little online assistance.
By chance we were all Apple users- as it is web based I could see it as a great application to use across the platforms.

A New Zealand Font

This post is for the Kiwis and Aussies.

A couple of years ago I asked the powers that be in NZ if we could have a NZ font- you know the one we’re supposed to teach in school. They said that would be a good idea and that was the end of that. So I hit the internet and found John Greatorex in Australia who makes fonts. I emailed him and he said he would make me one if I snail mailed him with how they were supposed to look.

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About a month later he sent me the trial to test. I have used that font ever since. It is great for wall displays and making up really neat personalised writing exemplars.

A teacher asked me today where I got my font from and it prompted me to pass on this really practical find from a few years back

Click on the font graphic to see the whole set- $60 for a school site licence.

This is not an endorsement as he would probably no longer remember who I am but I thought it was worth a shout out!